I live with my two dogs on the edge of the university research forest, where I walk everyday and think and pray. I have taught at Oregon State University since 1986 and have been a Catholic deacon since 1987. I have written a number of books, including two books of poetry. My second book of poems, THE NEXT THING ALWAYS BELONGS, was published in 2011 by Airlie Press.
Editor's Note: When I happened upon this poem in Rattle, where it was originally published, I was so moved by it that I wrote to Chris to ask him if I could reprint it in Verse-Virtual. He immediately agreed. Thus I am honored and thankful to present it to you now. -FF
I am called to bless a bathroom. A young poet
has committed suicide there. Her boyfriend found her
and tried to revive her. He was soaked with blood
when the EMTs arrived, and then the police, and though
he’s moved out now, and the biological hazard team
has scrubbed the blood away, the landlord and the boyfriend
and the boyfriend’s father want some kind of further
cleansing, maybe a kind of magic. But who am I to say?
So I drive to the complex, a warren of condominiums,
chalky and cheap, and I wander around until I find theirs,
and I knock on the door and introduce myself to the parents,
fifties, disheveled, in dirty sweatshirts and jeans, and
they take me down the hall, past boxes and piles of clothes.
The apartment is new, the bathroom small and bright.
I squeeze in by the toilet, stand against the wall, facing
the mirror, and say the prayers for the dead and the blessing
for a house, my voice echoing, and with a small, plastic
bottle begin to sprinkle the room with holy water. The vanity.
The mirror. The clean, fiberglass tub. Perpetual light
shine upon her, oh Lord. Amen. The boyfriend couldn’t bear
to come. His mother and father stand in the doorway, bowing
their heads. And as I wave the bottle and say the words,
the cap flies off, it pops, bouncing into the bottom of the tub,
and I have to lean over to get it, picking it up off the slick,
shiny surface of the fiberglass. May she rest in peace,
I say, embarrassed now, but alert, too. Aware. The words
as they echo sound so good to me in that hollow place,
and proper, and true. May the souls of all the faithful departed
through the mercy of God rest in peace. Then I turn, trace
the cross in the air, and give the final blessing—in my left hand
the cap, about the size of a dime, with a hole in the middle.
Like the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks. A whistle, or a top.
©2015 Chris Anderson